Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom Every time you visit Disney, you learn a little more about how to do it better next time.

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom Every time you visit Disney, you learn a little more about how to do it better next time.

Every time you visit Walt Disney World, you learn a few things – things that you vow to do better next time you visit.

I knew this year not to go to Animal Kingdom at 4 p.m. and expect to see lots of animals. I knew not to wear denim shorts, or socks with gym shoes, on the water rides or in the rain (they never really dry). I carried pre-purchased rain ponchos, no matter how sunny it seemed.
It was a big improvement. But I still could have done better. The Disney-savvy TravelingMoms teach me so much during our annual retreat, and I learn a few new tricks myself. So I hope you can learn from my mistakes and save yourself some money and trouble.
As Oprah always says, “When you know better, you do better.”

Mistake: Not pre-ordering a few groceries

What happened: I thought I was so clever and thrifty, packing snacks like M&Ms and microwave popcorn, until I saw that some TravelingMoms had pre-ordered groceries delivered to our resort – things like a loaf of bread, a pound of deli meat, a 6-pack of pop, and a box of cereal. Not only did it save them money, but the whole family ate healthier. I was jealous that they ate homemade turkey sandwiches and grapes, while I dropped $50 on lunch that always involved fries.
 
Moral of the story: Order in advance, online, from one of the grocery delivery services. Many of the TravelingMoms used Garden Grocer in Orlando, which delivered directly to your hotel room. They need at least two days advanced notice, and probably more if you want it delivered on a certain day or time. It’s a $40 minimum and a $14 delivery fee. Our resort, the Coronado Springs, did not have a place to buy a box of cereal or a half gallon of milk. So I’m definitely trying this next year.
Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom Proper footwear matters at Disney.

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom
They’re cute, but I wouldn’t recommend wearing these wedged Mickey sandals all day at Disney.

Mistake: Wearing unsupportive flip-flops all day

What happened: We packed cheap flip-flops for everyone, because the forecast called for a 90% chance of storms every day. Last year, when it rained heavily all day, we walked around in wet gym shoes and soggy socks; our shoes never seems to dry. But, as you know, you walk A LOT at Disney. So after a day in flip-flops, everyone’s feet hurt. Plus, my son’s toes got run over by a double stroller. OW!

Moral of the story: Wear supportive flip flops or walking/hiking sandals. But if the weather’s good, go for socks and gym shoes. One TravelingMom recommended Crocs brand shoes. Whatever your choice, remember, comfort trumps fashion when it comes to footwear at Disney.

Mistake: Not making restaurant reservations

What happened: During our 2014 Disney trip, we didn’t make any restaurant reservations at all. We figured we’d “play it by ear when we got there.” Bad idea. We ended up eating $60 breakfasts in the hotel each morning, followed by concession-stand food and snacks the rest of the day. Not only was it unhealthy, it was expensive – we were spending more than $200/day on burgers, fries and ice cream.

This year, we made three meal reservations for our four-day stay. Not perfect, or cheaper, but way better. I foolishly waited until a week before our trip to book restaurant reservations, which seriously limited our choices and times (dinner at 4:05 p.m.? Ugh.)

Still, the meals we had – the giant buffet at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, the fresh fish at Coral Reef in Epcot, the tasty pizza at Via Napoli in Epcot – were all delicious and I’d recommend all of these restaurants. Plus, everyone ate vegetables that weren’t deep fried!

The food was outstanding in the outdoor kitchens at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The kale salad at Urban Farm Eats – which had generous amounts of goat cheese, dried cherries, almonds and white balsamic vinaigrette dressing? I don’t even like kale and I snarfed it down, wondering if I could recreate the recipe when I got home. At Coral Reef, the kids had mini filet steaks with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Perfect.

Moral of the story: Book at least one restaurant meal a day, and book well in advance. At pricier restaurants, consider going for lunch instead of dinner. The dinner buffet at Tusker House cost us $100 for one adult and two kids. Had we eaten lunch there instead, the price would have been $20 less and the menu would have been largely the same.

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom Where's mom? Make sure to get yourself in a few photos.

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom
Where’s mom? Make sure to get yourself in a few photos.

Mistake: Not getting the whole family in the photos

What happened: I am the family photographer. That means most of the photos are of my kids, or my husband and the kids. From this year’s trip? Seriously, I am in, like, three photos. The kids will look back at these photos one day and think, “Man, we had such a great time in Walt Disney World with Dad.”

Moral of the story: Don’t be shy about asking someone to take your photo, including the PhotoPass photographers, or splurge and buy the Disney PhotoPass. We tried it last year, and it was fantastic. I regret not getting it this year. There are tons of photographers stationed at the most scenic places around the park, and they take your picture really fast, scan your magic band, and off you go. When you get home, you can look at your proofs online and pick the photos you’d like to order. It’s not cheap, but they will be Christmas card-worthy photos.

There’s a reason this tip is in my story, Five Things to Do on Every Family Vacation. I should have followed by own advice.

Mistake: Trying to pack too much in to one day

What happened: 12 hours, three parks, and punishing 90-degree Florida heat. We were going to see it all, damn it! We didn’t come all this way, and spend all this money, to lay in a hotel room. Everyone (except me) was whiny and tired.

Moral of the story: You must build in some pool and relaxation time for a Disney vacation. A one-hour lunch break in the park is not enough to rejuvenate everyone. I recommend dedicating at least 2 hours a day for chillin’ by the pool or relaxing in your room. It makes everyone happier. Plus, the Disney resort pools are fantastic! The one at the Contemporary Resort has a beach, outdoor ping-pong and pool tables, and a water area where you can parasail, go tubing or water ski.

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